Class blog buddies in Singapore

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I’ve written on a few different occasions about my friend Jabiz and his class of high school bloggers in Singapore, and how as we’ve uncovered our own approach to writing, sharing, blogging and teaching more or less on parallel courses on opposite sides of the Pacific (even though Jabiz is a Californian by birth and hence shares a little of the British Columbian in me).

As we move into the Christmas break, and the TALONS blogs have begun to gather a little bit of post-Eminent dust, I wanted to share a piece of a post he shared this week that links to many of the fantastic blogs, poems, videos and other wonderfully personal and expressive pieces his students have been sharing recently that cover a lot of emotional ground I see and hear about in our own classroom: fitting in, being an introvert, the outdoors, current events, art, and art, and art. (FYI, this class’ class blog is subscribed to under our TALONS GReader account, and is available on Flipboard on the TALONS iPads, as well).

It would be great to see TALONS bloggers begin to take their own blogging connections out beyond the classroom and start to form their own networks of learners among students pursuing a similar course of study (Jabiz and I refer to one another as “My Internet Twin” if you’re not convinced there’s a lot of common ground here already). So take a look, a read, a watch, and if you like what you find, leave a comment. Knowing how it feels to realize that there are people ‘out there’ who read and appreciate our work is one of the most powerful aspects of conducting learning on the Read-Write-Sing-Remix web, and something I hope we can continue to pursue in the new year.

In the meantime, I’ll turn it over to Jabiz:

Let’s take a quick look of what I have found recently. Shall we?

A student who has been struggling this year because he is a boarding student wrote a post about missing his parents. This tender and vulnerable post came off the heels of an equally thoughtful poem which is still in draft form and not yet ready for publishing. It was so nice to see this sapling break through the dry soil. So often we assume that an empty garden bed means there is no life, but if we are patient and we tend the soil, we will surprised by what may be quietly germinating beneath the surface.

Another girl who has been quiet and shy in class- an observer-  a lurker you might say– poured her heart out in a beautiful poem, another one not yet ready for sharing, but just two days later she shared this quirky and brilliant video about a failed art project. In the clip she demonstrates her fantastic ability to manipulate a camera while telling her story. Behind the lens she is an expert, but the beauty of this video is her self-conscious and self-deprecating honesty in front of the camera at the end.

A few weeks ago, Michele shared her thoughts on Introverts and about the awkwardness of adolescence. Perhaps her posts were what inspired Solal to write his Edublog Award nominated post Being a Social Outcast which has to date over one hundred comments from people all over the world who relate to his plight.

Over and over these kids are saying that they want to be heard, even when they don’t know why or how. These kids want to tackle complex issues. They want a place to find and share their voice. Maybe they are great poets, or perhaps they want to publicly and socially contemplate happiness. They are understanding that their spaces can be used to promote their projects, or share their moments of peace and excitement during school trips. They want to change the world and understand themselves. Theywrite novels, make cup music and just play around. They are learning about voice and online etiquette in conversations like this one.

“I’ve been wanting to write this for ages…”

I came across this post from one of Jabiz‘ students in Singapore on Friday evening and wanted to share it with the TALONS class for a few different reasons:

  • While our class blogging serves to strengthen our own community and connections between the different grades and morning and afternoon programs, I am always looking for ways to connect our conversations to similar ones going on ‘out there’ in the world.
  • What Solal is writing about here is a relevant and universal sentiment that follows thinking people around throughout their lives, but is especially acute in adolescence.
  • I think there are many TALONS, past and present, who would like to join in this conversation, and potentially extend it into different threads to pursue here, and on their own blogs.

Here is Solal’s post, “Being Unsocial:”

Sometimes, I feel kinda bad about being a social outcast. I mean, I don’t know people that well and I have trouble breaking the ice, but I don’t get how you finish this conversation:

Me: “Hello, my name is Solal….. (Awkward silence)
Guy I’m trying to make friends with: (Back away slowly)

Invasive? Yes
Can I stop myself from doing it. Yes
Do I stop myself from being weird. No

Because in my eyes, I’m not.

And I envy those people in the Lunch queue who just turn around, talk to random people and become best friends (and beyond) instantly. I find it hard to go beyond my class. And those lunch groups. ARGHHHHHH. I try to join them, but how? Do I just walk up, come up with something amazing to say and just hang out? Because I can never find the right thing to say. And I’m not popular. And people don’t take me seriously. Because of my size? No, there are loads of popular shorties. Because of my appearance? No, there are loads of popular uglies (no, I don’t mean you). Because of my personality? It seems rational and probably is the reason. But then there are the endless websites that tell you to be yourself and not change your personality. So now what? How do I change the fact that people go “Oh, what’s Solal doing here?”to my face? And if they say that to my face, what must they say behind my back?

That’s also why I don’t really tend to invite people over (yep, the question marks again) What if they don’t like the place where I live? What if my family are embarrassing? What if I embarrass myself? And if any of these things happen, then I leave a lasting impression on the person.

But I think the main reason that I’m practically friendless is because it has become ‘Uncool’ or ‘Unpopular’ to be friends with Solal. (Yeah guys, I’m not stupid. I do care.) I bring this up because recently, I sat down on a bench with two guys, started a conversation with a pun and got into a lasting chat. Because they didn’t know I existed before. Or the sixth graders in my bus. Good friends. Because they don’t know about the fact that they shouldn’t be friends with me.

Beyond being a great piece of brave writing I’d like to highlight for the TALONS class, I think it would be interesting to see this thread continue in our own writing and blogging. For instance, I’d be curious to know how you go about confronting the task of “being yourself in a world that is trying to make you into something else“? What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself on the subject? Is there something your Eminent Person Study has taught you about this process?

Something visible in the (32 as of this posting) comments to Solal’s post is that this idea of social isolation and anxiety struck a nerve across Jabiz’ network of edubloggers, enjoying a mini-viral phenomena that has probably near-crashed his site any number of times in the last week. And so I wonder if the TALONS – even in this week of Notables and Eminents and a host of other teenage stresses – might feel like lending a hand in creating something of a meme around Solal’s initial post.

Because this is something that Jabiz and I feel passionately about: that the reason we find blogging, the potential of the Internet, and this idea of learning in networks so compelling is that it allows us each to gain a foothold in our own searching, just like Solal is doing, and to use this foothold to amplify the fruits of our learning across the blogosphere. So I’m curious:

Does the above post strike a nerve with you? Why?

Does it make you want to write a song, or poem?

Does it show itself to you in the form of an animated GIF?

What about a hipster edit?